Disability World
A bimonthly web-zine of international disability news and views, Issue no. 7 March-April 2001

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Disabled Muscovites Call for Normalized Lives

By Valeria Korchagina
Special to the Moscow Times, Friday, December 8, 2000

A couple dozen disabled people, many in wheelchairs, went to City Hall on Thursday to demand better protection of their rights. The need for change became glaringly clear when police officers had to carry the wheelchairs up a massive marble staircase to the Mayor's Office because even City Hall lacks a ramp.

The group of activists headed to City Hall after holding a rally on nearby Pushkin Square, calling for Moscow to implement changes that would allow the disabled to lead the same lives as other people. Protesters carried signs reading "Make the city equal for everyone," and "Accessible public transportation for disabled."

"The metro is scary," said Konstantin, a man in his 20s who was paralyzed from the waist down after a motorcycle accident. "Even if you manage to navigate the escalator, look at the gaps between the train and the platform."

Rally organizers said that tens of thousands of Muscovites have serious disabilities, but the city has only one metro station with an elevator and a single wheelchair-accessible toilet, that opened recently downtown. They called on officials to make public transport accessible to disabled persons and for sidewalks and staircases to be equipped with ramps.

"These are simple problems experienced by many people, even those who aren't disabled," said Olga Drozdova, an activist with the Perspektiva organization. "Any young mother with a baby carriage knows how challenging a staircase can be." Perspektiva was one of six activist groups sponsoring the rally.

Some participants at the rally said that the inability to move around freely had affected their education and careers.

"I never managed to finish my dissertation because it required research at a plant where I could not go in a wheelchair," said Valentin Krylov, a graduate of the Moscow Aviation Institute who has used a wheelchair since he was a student in the 1960s. "For some time in my life I was forced to do the work traditionally offered to disabled persons, something along the line of sealing envelopes or making clothespins, and all because I could not travel to an office," he said.

Drozdova said that Moscow does not have a legislative framework in place to enforce any measures to improve quality of life for the disabled population. Even when changes are ordered, the city has no way of adopting them on a large scale.

Organizers said that about one in every 10 Muscovites has some kind of disability, a figure that adds up to about 1 million people with difficulties.

Activists collected signatures from passers-by for an appeal to Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov to improve the lives of the disabled. It later presented the plea to City Hall.

The Mayor's Office did not address the activists' appeal Thursday.

Under the law, it has a month to reply to the petition.

Introduction| Article 1| Article 2 | Article 3| Article 4

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